Vanishing Presumptions

I read Vanishing American because the lady makes frequent and interesting posts.  Her blog has had two subtle (and unexpected) effects on my life.

First, and the more silly of the two; VA posted a video awhile back of two women showcasing traditional dance-steps.  As a group of musicians played, one lady would Irish step-dance for a few bars then jump out, making room for the other lady who would begin Appalachian step-dancing.

I had seen people “clogging” but I didn’t realize it was a discipline with a legitimate historical pedigree.  Also, as a lover of Celtic music, I was marginally aware of Irish step-dancing, but was never interested enough to investigate further.  VA’s video (and her comments) made me realize that my people have a thriving and interesting cultural personality, even if most of us don’t realize it.  So, I admit, I learned to clog.  It’s fun and I’m getting better (I think).

More importantly though — and this realization came to fruition last week — I was inspired by VA’s writings to take up genealogical research again.

All my life I had been told that I was descended from a long line of Scots-Irish.  My family has been in south-western Virginia since before America was a nation.  Being from Appalachia and believing the myth that the South is primarily composed of Scots-Irish (and seeing as how my family-name sounds Irish), we have always assumed we were Scots-Irish.

Vanishing American questions the legitimacy of the Scots-Irish mythos and claims that the demographic situation is often more complicated than usually thought.  Just to be sure then, I wanted to double-check the genealogical work done by my grandparents and trace my line all the way back to Europe.

My grandparents were able to trace us back to the Revolution but not much further.  After months of research, hitting brick-wall after brick-wall,  I was finally able to discover the truth about myself last week.  It’s just as Vanishing American would have suspected.

I’m not Scots-Irish at all.  I’m English, and likely descended from one of the “First Families of Virginia” (a southern Aristocratic class.)  I’m proud to say that I have very distinguished ancestors, one of whom was an indian-fighter, the first sheriff of Henry Co. and helped draft the Virginia state constitution (and was likely friends with Patrick Henry).

Thank you Vanishing American for inspiring a project which has yielded no end of personal discovery.

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5 Responses to Vanishing Presumptions

  1. Good job. I love genealogy.

  2. Brandon says:

    Vanishing American is a lady? How wonderful.

  3. Faust says:

    I do like the Vanishing American blog. I am mainly descended from Englishmen, from Virginia and Carolinas too. I don’t quite understand the hyping of Scots-Irish mythos, not to say they weren’t important. But even my Appalachian hillbilly ancestors were English for the most part.

  4. VA says:

    Shotgun – thanks for the kind words. I only just found this post or I would have responded earlier.
    It’s interesting about your genealogy discoveries. If you are a descendant of the First Families of Virginia then we are kin. And even just by your English descent we are more distant kin.
    Glad you took up dancing – it’s fun and the clogging/flatfooting etc. are part of our tradition.
    And I am glad that something I’ve written has been of value, even in a small way.


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